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HomeDRIVENROAD TESTEDAudi Q3 Sportback

Audi Q3 Sportback

NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE |

With highways and byways adorned with SUV coupé designs, it took the release of the Audi Q8 Sportback for me to realise just how compelling a proposition the SUV coupé could be. The reception was resounding – so much so that Audi assimilated this design formula into the Q3. With the Q3 Sportback successfully relaying the DNA of its larger sibling, all that remained to assess was whether it is just a pretty face or if there is more to this compact SUV coupé than meets the eye. 

Exterior Appeal

The Q3 Sportback is a looker, and in a world inundated with SUVs of all shapes and sizes, it most certainly stands out. While the SUV coupéform factor has become more prominent over the years and has earned adequate public approval, the design execution by most manufacturers has not been entirely on the money. On the other hand, Audi deserves credit for doing justice to this form factor from the outset, starting with the Q8 Sportback, and expanding on it with the Q3 Sportback. The result is a compact and sporty version of the former.  

Apart from the apparent change in visual appearance of the Q3 Sportback, when compared to the standard Q3, the Sportback is 16 mm longer, 6 mm narrower and 29 mm shorter. The wheelbase, however, remains the same at 2,680 mm. From the front, the Sportback appears similar to the standard version, sharing the same sharp headlights bejewelled with trendy daytime running lights in typical Audi fashion. The grille remains largely unchanged, although the S Line trim boasts a honeycomb mesh design, which adds character to the car’s front.

The windscreen is moderately more raked than on the standard Q3, which amplifies the overall coupé appearance of the Sportback. The sides of the Sportback bear sharper character lines that run adjacent to the beltline of the doors, accentuated by muscular flared haunches reminiscent of the RS4. In our test car’s bright orange paint scheme, these character lines reflected the light in perfect harmony. The more exciting adjustments to the exterior commence at the rear three-quarters of the car, where the roofline descends into the coupé silhouette. At certain angles, the Sportback really does look like a smaller Q8 Sportback. Sadly it does not boast the same full-width rear light bar as the Q8 Sportback. The striking LED rear lights, however, look sufficiently stylish.

The 40 TFSI Quattro S Line that we tested sported the optional black pack, which deletes all chrome fixtures in favour of a glossy black trim that ties in nicely with the optional 19″ alloys (18” wheels being standard). Adding to the curb appeal of what is already a stylish vehicle, this package is a must-have. 

Interior Splendour

The cabin is equally tasteful. It goes without saying that Audi creates some of the most appealing interior designs on the market, with the current generation interiors proving to be just as compelling. The Sportback shares the same interior design with the standard Q3, accentuated with a generous use of soft-touch materials and leather that complement the minimalistic design of the dashboard.

Given that this model is aimed at a more youthful audience, there is no shortage of tech in the Sportback. The Q3 boasts an 8.8” touchscreen infotainment system operating on Audi’s MMI system. The Technology Package option replaces the traditional analogue gauges in the instrument cluster with a configurable virtual cockpit, which increases the size of the infotainment system to a whopping 12.3”. Also included are USB A and USB C ports, with the latter future-proofing the vehicle’s device connectivity. In addition, the car includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, accessible through the infotainment system, and allows for convenient access to maps or to belt out music through the optional Bang and Olufsen sound system. To add to the visual flair, S Badges are prominently displayed throughout the cabin of the S Line Model. 

The Q3 lacks the dual-display screens found in its more expensive siblings, but the physical climate zone control, with its old fashioned tactility, is a reassuring treat for those still opposed to touchscreen technology in a car.

Cabin space is marginally less than what the standard Q3 offers. The stylish descending roofline diminishes rear headroom space, making it somewhat challenging for taller occupants to be comfortably seated in the rear. However, legroom is acceptable and accommodative of tall passengers. It goes without saying that rear storage falls victim to the design. With the same 530 litres of space as the standard Q3, the rake of the rear window limits the volume and height of certain pieces of cargo, like that odd-shaped piece of furniture that needs to be transported when least expected. Although, in that case, there is the option of folding the rear seats forward (in a 40:20:40 split) to expand storage capacity to 1,280 litres.

Driving Impression

It is worth mentioning that the Q3 is built on the same VW MQB platform as the VW Golf. Apart from the obvious cost and efficiency benefits inherent to sharing a platform, it also comes with the benefit of being perfected over many years and billions of test miles.

The Sportback encompasses two drivetrain configurations (not including the recently announced RS Q3 Sportback). The Sportback 35 TFSI is fitted with a 1.4-litre engine producing 110 kW and 250 Nm to the front wheels, while the more capable 2.0-litre 40 TFSI variant delivers 132 kW and 320 Nm to the Quattro system. Both configurations are mated to a 7-speed S tronic transmission.

Our 40 TFSI test car sported the 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder option. With more grunt and punch, it handled the daily commute like a pro. Although the gearbox would hesitate on the odd occasion when under load, this was quickly rectified by manually shifting through the gears via the steering wheel-mounted pedals. 

Light and precise steering, coupled with a responsive engine, made it easy to blitz around town with the necessary urgency required on South African roads. An elevated seating position makes driving in traffic easier, even though the sloping rear window somewhat compromises rear visibility.

Given the Sportback’s tall stance, a slight bit of lean in corners can be expected, but thanks to Audi’s superior traction, it is never unsettling. Still, the Q3 Sportback delivers an exciting ride, bordering on exhilarating. We have reason to suspect that the exhilarating moniker may best fit the RSQ3, which should be launched soon.

Last Word

One of the standard Q3’s most commendable features is its practicality in a competitive segment. By embodying the coupé form factor, the Sportback sacrifices some of its practicality in favour of curb appeal and balances the compact SUV offering from Audi. For those who value practicality over everything else, the standard Q3 would be the perfect choice. However, if good looks are more important to you than rear headroom and luggage space, then the Sportback is highly recommended, bearing in mind that this kind of appeal comes at a premium, with the Sportback priced from R693,000 compared to the Q3 from R629,000. 

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © AUDI South Africa

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